Forecasted 18 inches of snow expected to open more resort terrain, cause travel difficulties this weekend in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A storm front is expected to bring heavy snow to Steamboat Springs this weekend, making for some powder days on the mountain but also posing travel and avalanche dangers.
Meteorologists are calling for as much as 18 inches of fresh snow at higher elevations by the end of Saturday. About 8 inches could hit the lower Yampa Valley, including the city of Steamboat.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning until 11 p.m. Saturday for Rabbit Ears Pass and the Medicine Bow Range. Travel could be “very difficult,” according to the warning, with blowing snow causing “significantly reduced visibility.”
The Weather Service advises travelers to carry a flashlight, food and water in their vehicles in case of an emergency.
New terrain at Steamboat Resort
With this week’s snowfall and more on the way, Steamboat Resort announced on Thursday it will nearly double the amount of open terrain over the weekend.
On Saturday, the Sundown and Elkhead lifts will start running. The beginner trail Why Not will open, as well as hike-to access off of the Pony Express chairlift. On Sunday, the Sunshine and South Peak lifts will make their winter starts, according to the resort, giving access to the Wally World trails such as Tomahawk and the Sunshine lift line.
The oncoming storm should begin late Friday to the early morning on Saturday, according to local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website snowalarm,com. He calls for 2 to 4 inches of accumulation by Saturday morning’s snow report at the resort, with another 5 to 10 inches by sunset. Another 1 to 4 inches is expected to fall Saturday night, Weissbluth said.
Some warmer temperatures on Saturday afternoon could make for heavier snow, but cooler temperatures prevail. Saturday’s high is expected to be 36 degrees with a low of 10 degrees in the evening, according to the Weather Service.
Sunday should be a relatively mild day snow-wise, Weissbluth said, but a cold front will bring near subzero temperatures to the area. Sunday’s high is 27 degrees with a low of 2 degrees in the evening, according to the Weather Service.
The weekend’s storm should be the icing on the powder cake following heavy snowfall on Thursday and early Friday. Steamboat Resort’s midmountain snow report Friday morning tallied 8 inches of fresh snow, with 10 inches on the summit.
Some guests exhibited a true, Colorado devotion to snagging a powder day Friday.
Denver resident Will Hehir was visiting the resort with his wife, Kathleen Horn, both Ikon Pass holders. After taking a few laps, Hehir found a quiet corner in the Four Points Lodge to join in on a work conference call, a set of headphones dangling from his ears to block out the din of fellow skiers and riders.
Horn welcomed the break to warm up and chow down on a burrito from the lodge. She said the powder has been nice, but gusting winds made it hard to see.
On Friday morning, both the gondola and Storm Peak Express ran slower than usual due to the winds, according to resort mechanics.
The inclement weather was not enough to deter Steamboat resident Chuck Smith, who has not missed a day since the resort opened on Nov. 15. He plans to keep the streak going, save for one family obligation over the holidays.
“I’m going to miss one day on Christmas because my mom demands I go home and spend one evening with them,” he said with only a slight tinge of remorse.
Staying safe in the snow
Plentiful snowfall does not come without risks, and experts are urging people to take extra precautions this weekend.
Amid blowing snow and limited visibility, guests at the resort should keep about 15 feet of distance from other skiers and riders, according to Todd Sepella, who is working his 18th year with Steamboat Ski Patrol. He also reminds guests to abide by trail closures and to never duck a rope — something that is against the law in Colorado.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center also forecasts a high avalanche danger over the weekend, owing to persistent slabs that are unstable.
“Avalanches will grow larger, will be easier to trigger and more dangerous as the new and wind-drifted snow accumulates,” according to the Avalanche Center’s forecast.
Kreston Rohrig, the Avalanche Center’s dedicated forecaster for the Steamboat area, said this weekend’s storm is “a big test for the northern mountains.”
Traveling in avalanche terrain, particularly on slopes steeper than 30 degrees, is not recommended, according to Rohrig.
“Don’t let the pursuit of good powder cloud your judgment,” he said on the center’s website. “With avalanche danger on the rise, the best advice for all backcountry travelers is to simply avoid being on or near avalanche terrain.”
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Steamboat Springs part-time resident David Dennis is approaching the third-year mark from when his right leg was amputated below the knee.